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Over 50 Former Wrestlers Sue WWE Over Brain Injuries

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 19, 2016 2:15 PM

It's not just the NFL that has a concussion lawsuit problem. Jimmy Snuka and 50 other retired wrestlers filed a lawsuit against World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., claiming the enterprise "placed corporate gain over its wrestlers' health, safety and financial security, choosing to leave the plaintiffs severely injured and with no recourse to treat their damaged minds and bodies."

Like previous lawsuits against the NFL and NHL, the WWE claim alleges that the league knew about the long-term neurological effects of wrestling and hid them from athletes. Here's a look at how the latest brain injury lawsuit mirrors and differs from those filed before.

Is Wrestling Real?

The knock on wrestling from non-fans over the years is that its scripted nature means it's not a "real sport," despite the real athletic talent involved and the real athletic injuries suffered during the course of a match or a career. In an interesting twist, the allegation that wrestling is "fake" may come back to bite the WWE legally.

The latest lawsuit alleges that, unlike other professional sports, wrestling matches "involve very specific moves that are scripted, controlled, directed and choreographed by WWE," meaning that, compared to other leagues, WWE retains much more control and direction over its athletes' health and well-being. Therefore, WWE and its employees may be subject to far more scrutiny if they knew about the risk of brain injuries generally or the existence of an injury specifically and yet directed a wrestler to get body-slammed or pile-driven. "As such," the suit claims, "the moves that resulted in Named Plaintiffs' head injuries were the direct result of the WWE's actions."

Lethal Liability

The class action lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, also alleged "WWE knows that its wrestlers including the plaintiffs are at great risk for these diseases such as CTE that can result in suicide, drug abuse and violent behavior that pose a danger to not only the athletes themselves but their families and community, yet the WWE does nothing to warn, educate or provide treatment to them."

In fact, wrestlers, as contractors, may enjoy the fewest legal protections when it comes to medical and health treatment. "These wrestlers don't have medical benefits," Daniel Wallach, a sports law expert told Bloomberg. "They're independent contractors. They're in worse shape than retired professional football players or retired hockey players. They're the most disposable athletes in the sports and entertainment business."

WWE doesn't seem too concerned with the suit. The organization released a statement, saying "This is another ridiculous attempt by the same attorney who has previously filed class action lawsuits against WWE, both of which have been dismissed. A federal judge has already found that this lawyer made patently false allegations about WWE, and this is more of the same."

I can think of at least one other sports injury-related lawsuit that was dismissed previously, only to be revived again. And it may well happen to WWE as well.

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